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July 9, 2022

2 Books for Fans of Historical Mysteries

by Donna Huber

It is a dark and stormy morning, perfect for reading a mystery. I recently read two 1930a historical mysteries that were a bit of a departure from my normal mystery reading. 

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Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare

book cover of historical mystery Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare
July 2022; Berkley; 978-0593439258
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); historical mystery

Miss Aldridge Regrets
 is a locked-door mystery but there isn't a sleuth. The book is very atmospheric with the setting aboard the Queen Mary crossing from London to New York City in August 1936.

Lena Aldridge is a mixed-race jazz singer whose big break never seemed to come. Then shortly after her father dies, living her alone in the world (she never knew her white mother), opportunity comes knocking. An old friend of her father's from New York City is opening a Broadway show and wants Lena as the lead. It sounds too good to be true, but when the owner of the Canary Club, the cellar nightclub she sings at in Soho is murdered that same night she starts thinking that it is fate. Fleeing one murder scene, she boards the Queen Mary with great hope for a new beginning. Unfortunately, her dinner companions, a wealthy family from New York, start to drop dead. Who is behind these murders and is she next?

When no detective magically appeared to be on board the ship, I thought Lena would become the amateur sleuth with perhaps Will, the ship's jazz pianist, as her co-sleuth. But that wasn't the case. Outside of asking a few questions, Lena is only concerned about not being the murderer's next victim. 

The story moves kind of slowly. There is some talk about racial issues as Lena may not pass for white quite as easily in America. Most of the action is just the everyday variety aboard a luxury liner crossing the Atlantic. Lena does some shopping, there's a movie night with Eliza (the daughter of the wealthy patriarch Lena is seated with at dinner), she goes to the pool with Carrie (Eliza's daughter), and of course, there are plenty of drinks and dinners. 

The story is told from Lena's point of view and she is a likable character. It is because of her that I was able to finish the book - I wanted to make sure she didn't take the fall for all the murders in the end. There are a handful of diary entries from the true murderer sprinkled between chapters and I wished there had been more. They added the only tension to the story and provided clues for the reader to figure out who the killer was. 

I really liked Will too and wished there had been a bit more of him in the novel. 

If you are looking for a light mystery that isn't a cozy, then you should try this novel.

Buy Miss Aldridge Regrets at Amazon

When She Dreams by Amanda Quick

book cover of hard-boiled mystery When She Dreams by Amanda Quick
May 2022; Berkley; 978-0593337783
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); hard-boiled mystery

I will admit I picked up this book because I kept seeing it and I had a little FOMO (fear of missing out). I didn't realize that it is book 6 in the Burning Cove series, but I'm not sure if reading the previous books really matters though as I think it is the setting and not the characters that ties the books together.

It is the Golden Age of Hollywood and when the stars want to get away they head to Burning Cove - a place that is as dangerous as it is glamourous. When She Dreams is an atmospheric novel. You can totally visualize the glitz and scandalous nature of the time period.

Maggie is the assistant to advice columnist Aunt Cornelia who is being blackmailed. Maggie hires a struggling PI which leads them to Burning Cove. Maggie helps with the investigation as this is more her scene than Sam's. 

This book was a bit of a hit and a miss for me. There were times when I really got into the story and was enjoying the adventure - like the meet-up in the parking lot of a club frequented by mobsters. But then there were lulls and I would grow bored with the book. The lucid dreaming plot point was kind of interesting but a little too "out there" for me. But it fits with the time period as psychology and the paranormal were growing in interest

I don't tend to read hard-boiled or noir mysteries and this book definitely had elements of both of those sub-genres. It always felt dark when I was reading the book. 

I liked Sam and Maggie as individuals and as a sleuthing pair. The sexual tension between the two was to be expected but I wasn't prepared for the detailed sex scenes. They were somewhat short but they could have been completely left out. 

If you like hard-boiled and noir fiction, then you should definitely try this novel. 

Buy When She Dreams at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.


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